San Pellegrino is an icon of the Italian lifestyle, the most stylish brand of sparkling water you can order anywhere in the world, synonymous with luxury, fine dining, jet set summers in Europe and “la Dolce Vita”. One of its first admirers was allegedly Leonardo da Vinci, who visited the source in Lombardy to sample the the town’s “miraculous” water. It would seem ironic then, that the birthplace of the fizzy water, San Pellegrino Terme, once a playground for the rich and famous, is looking pretty sorry for itself nowadays…
When the wealthy Palazzo family built the first spa in San Pellegrino to take advantage of the source, the town immediately began gaining fame as a vacation spot. The European bourgeoisie flocked to the town to sample the water and mingle with the aristocracy. A beautiful Belle Epoque-style Casino and Grand Hotel were built, where guests could gamble and relax in between spa sessions. The bottle’s iconic label designed in 1899, even features the Art Nouveau casino building of San Pellegrino Terme against the Alps skyline.
The casino hasn’t been a casino since 1946. Today, you can hire it out for wedding receptions, business conventions and that sort of thing.
And when you try to Google the Grand Hotel San Pellegrino, the spa town’s most prominent Art Nouveau moment, you’ll find it’s permanently closed– and has been since 1979.
You can’t miss the hotel, it’s the centrepiece of the town. Shuttered and neglected for decades, this sleeping beauty once played host to kings and queens, Russian tsars and movie stars. But when the oversized palatial hotel needed to undergo renovations to bring in modern amenities, the adaptation costs were astronomical and no one wanted to foot the bill.
Public and private institutions are still looking for a solution that would guarantee the recovery of the prestigious building. One might assume the brand San Pellegrino, the town’s success story, might be interested in saving the infrastructure of its birthplace, but the luxurious sparkling drink was sold to the Swiss company Nestlé in 1997. And while the mineral water still comes from the same Italian source where it has flowed for over 600 years, it doesn’t appear as if the brand’s new investors have much interest in restoring the spa town to its former glory…
So next time you’re sipping on that San Pellegrino bubbly, spare a thought for its less than sparkling birthplace.